I feel many people are confused when asked: what makes a dog breeder a reputable breeder? The answer varies depending on who you ask. Pet buyers, dog breeders, vets, and even rescues will often have a different response – heck it even differs by country!
This article will elaborate on my perception of what makes an individual a reputable breeder. For me, I think there are a few key points a breeder must possess in order to be labeled as a reputable breeder in my book. However, I understand some people may disagree or feel like there are other points to be added. I’m not the end all, know all when it comes to dogs, I’m an individual who values the purebred dog for what it is, and wants to see purebred dogs flourish because of reputable breeders who care about the breed and want to do right by their dogs. I hate the fact purebreds are constantly bashed about being less healthy than mixes because of high volume/uneducated breeders will use the term purebred as a huge selling point, not caring about common genetic issues in the breed, breeding any dog regardless if it shows qualities of the genetic diseases. Purebred does not equal well bred, a well bred animal is not only a joy to live with but also a healthy example of their breed.
- Passing Health Testing
Personally I feel that the most important thing any dog breeder can do is get their breeding stock health tested. Taking a dog to the vet for a checkup, being told they are healthy, and being up to date on vaccines for example is not the same as being health tested. Purebred dogs have a limited gene pool so it’s extremely important that breeders do their best to preserve the genetic integrity of the breed by breeding only the healthiest dogs or selectively breeding dogs with issues to increase genetic diversity. The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) has a list on their website of health testing specific breeds should have and pass before being bred. These tests are set by the parent club of the breed and are posted on the OFA’s website. If the breeder does not health test, or offers passing scores of their dogs, then I would stay far away from the breeder. You can browse the breeds on via this link: https://www.ofa.org/browse-by-breed
The specific tests for Shibas are located here:
Once a Shiba (or any purebred dog) has passed all the required health testing and has a permanent form of identification (microchip or tattoo), they will receive a CHIC number, which indicates the dog’s health testing.
Some breeders may do preliminaries on their dogs. OFA hip results are recorded as permanent results only if the dog has their X rays done at two years old. So if a breeder decides to do preliminaries and the dog passes, sometimes they may not choose to get ‘official’ results. In this case, I would ask the breeder to provide you with a picture or copy of the passing preliminary papers. You can also use this search to see if the dogs have been health tested. (https://www.ofa.org/advanced-search?search=advanced)
Reputable breeders sell their puppies on contracts. These contracts usually state the puppy must be altered if not of breeding quality, a health guarantee, and that if the purchaser is not able to keep the dog the dog shall be returned to the breeder. This is a responsible way to make sure the breeder is not adding to the shelter /rescue system with either homes that fall through or people who decide they want to breed a litter because they paid a lot of their dog or the dog is purebred. A breeder who does not offer a return clause or even spaying/neutering of companion puppies sets the dogs up for an uncertain future. If the breeder doesn’t take back a puppy and the owner decides that the dog no longer works with their busy schedule what happens to the dog? If it is lucky it might end up in a breed specific rescue. Usually they end up at a shelter, owner surrenders are usually the first to be euthanized (especially if the dog has a reported behavior issue such as biting or killing small animals) so the dog gets housed and killed in the shelter which takes up shelter resources. Or let’s say the new owners want to breed their bitch, they just sell the puppies to the first people who offers them money. There’s nothing to prevent those puppies from being bred, sent to a shelter, or becoming impulse buys. When people purchase a breed that is not well suited for them, it doesn’t usually work out in the dog’s favor.
The breeder shouldn’t be just breeding any dog just because they can. They should have a clear purpose for producing each litter, this cuts down on the mass producing of puppies that are unwanted, become impulse buys, or end up cluttering the shelter systems.
Ask the breeder their goals for the pairing. Is it to preserve the breed? Improve a trait? Produce better hunting dogs? Or is it more along the lines of producing a litter because their bitch has a ‘great’ temperament, or they spent a lot of money on their dog’s purchase so they want to make some money back? A breeder should be to tell you their goals for their linage/dogs. If they can’t I wouldn’t classify them as a reputable breeder.
Your dog’s breeder should be your number one support system. If you have a training question, food questions, behavior question, even a ‘is this poop normal?’ question, your breeder should be someone who will give you advice and support for you and the dog its entire life. If your breeder can’t give you local vet suggestions*, local trainer recommendations*, and information regarding the breed and their linage I would find someone else more knowledgeable.
*If the breeder is local to your area.
- Questions – lots and lots of questions
An extremely important aspect of purchasing a dog, especially a purebred, is knowing if the breed is the right fit for you. A reputable breeder will have an inquiry form on their website for you to fill out via email. They might ask you questions such as have you ever owned said breed? How many pets do you have? Do you have any children? They ask these questions not to be nosy, but to see if you are indeed a good fit for one of their puppies. These puppies aren’t just a ticket for some extra pocket money. These are living, breathing creatures we made the choice to bring into this world. It is our responsibility to make sure we give them the best life we can. Just because you have the $1,800 I’m asking for to purchase a puppy doesn’t mean you’ll be getting one from me.
This to me is important but not as important as the 5 other points. Titling a dog shows you made the effort with training and getting your dog out there to qualify for a nice prefix or suffix to be added on to its registered name.
Titling takes time, money, and tears – no, I’m not exaggerating. Multiple titles means the dog has had more training put into it in order for it to excel. It’s not some sort of silly paper that allows the breeder or owner bragging rights. It a piece of paper validating all the hard work an individual put into the dog, making the dog the best the owner could, and proving that the animal has a reason to contribute to the gene pool.
Please remember that reputable breeders rarely make any money on their litters – between spending money on dog shows/hunting tests/performance events, health testing, stud fees, and whelping supplies we are more often in the red with each litter. Why? We spend money showing our dogs (think entry fees, hotels, and gas) to prove our dog’s worth of being bred. We spend hours researching pedigrees, trying to find the right dog to compliment our bitches – sometimes driving 16 hours to get her bred or spending $800 to fly her to him just to have the breeding not take. It isn’t about the money, it’s about keeping our breed around for the next generation to love and protect. Don’t be shocked if you have to wait a year or two for your puppy since reputable breeders tend to have a long waiting list. Expect to wait even longer if you want a specific color or sex.
Some other key points to keep in mind when vetting breeders are:
Is the breeder part of the National breed club (http://shibas.org/) and/or a regional breed specific club (http://www.shibas.org/clubs.html), or a local kennel club? These clubs usually have a set of rules that must be followed by members when it comes to breeding dogs in addition to being sponsored by two club members in good standing. It’s no easy feat to get into these clubs.
Do breeders allow potential puppy buyers to come to their home or kennel to not only visit and meet the dogs but to pick up puppies? It’s a huge red flag when a breeder doesn’t allow buyers to come on their property to meet the parents or pick up their puppies. Meeting in a Cracker Barrel parking lot to do a puppy drop off isn’t acceptable. What could the breeder’s reasoning be? Disease control? What is more acceptable is declining visitors when a litter is just whelped as the puppies are more susceptible to infectious diseases and have little to no immunity. Or even denying a home visit after the interested party has either gone to a heavy dog traffic area or visited another breeder/kennel. Once the puppies are old enough they should be thoroughly socialized with different people and potential puppy buyers to make sure it’s a good fit.
When do the puppies go home? If they’re under 8 weeks that is another red flag. Puppies should stay a minimum of 8 weeks with their littermates and mother. This teaches them canine manners and allows them to mentally mature a bit. Sending puppies off at 6 weeks old because they are weaned shouldn’t be accepted as an excuse. Its crucial puppies socialize with their mother and littermates to develop good dog skills later in life. Some breeders may even decide to hold onto puppies until they’re 12 weeks old, especially if they’re evaluating a litter for show potential.
If your heart is set on a purebred puppy, even if it’s just to be a pet, the reputable breeder is the way to go. It’s not always easy finding a reputable breeder when Googling ‘your state whatever-breed-you’re-interested-in breeders’ and you get bombarded by websites with adorable puppy pictures, maybe some fancy words, and a well put together website. It can be hard to see pass the façade of less than reputable breeders. That’s when you need to ask questions about health testing, titling, contracts, and life time support, if the of the information isn’t offered on the website. It’s your responsibility as a potential owner of the dog to do what’s best for the breed, for future generations, and the individual dog by supporting breeders who dedicate their lives to safeguard their breed of choice.